Cheshire Macro-Moth Report - 1999

As many of you will have noticed, there was not a Cheshire Macro-moth report for 1998, other than for a short circular letter which I sent out at the end of 1998 in an attempt to stimulate an input of information from the small army of moth trappers and recorders which used to provide data for Ian Rutherford (the previous County Recorder).

1999 has been just as unsuccessful in terms of attracting moth records from this 'army' but has seen the initiation of a few new recorders such as Paul Hill and Adrian Wander who have begun to send in their records via the use of e-mail. It would appear that following the publication of Ian Rutherford's "Macro-Moths In Cheshire 1961 to 1993" in 1994 many recorders feel that the 'work' with regard to macro-moths has been done, dusted and completed. However, I personally feel that, although Ian's book was an excellent and timely publication, there is still much more to do.

Many of the records which Ian accrued were from the back-gardens of moth trappers - nothing wrong with that at all as we need information on how back-gardens are providing habitat and living space for invertebrates as we lose more and more of our countryside. However, there is a need to monitor what is left of our countryside as well and I would like to take this opportunity to encourage moth trappers in Cheshire, Halton, Warrington, Wirral and Hale (all part of the new modern county of Cheshire as well as many of the parts constituting the old Vice-County of Cheshire (VC-58)) to not only trap in their back gardens but also to take their traps to their friends and relatives gardens and into their local woods, meadows and reedbeds.

I know MV traps need a source of electricity but if you haven't got a generator, or access to one, why not knock at the nearest house and ask if you can run from their mains socket. Or, use an actinic trap with a motorcycle or car battery. Many moths are very localised in their habitat usage, particularly reedbed moths, and we need more people across our area to work these sorts of places.

In terms of presentation of information, I am hoping to be able to eventually produce a set of definitive distribution maps in the form of an update to Ian's 1994 volume. In the meantime I will attempt to publish interim distribution maps in both the Lancashire & Cheshire Entomological Society Newsletter and in their Journal to enable people to see the holes (i.e. lack of records) from where they live as an attempt to encourage them to pass their records to me for inclusion in the database.

Currently, the database holds 189,447 biological records of which 56,165 are lepidoptera records - BUT, these include micro-moths and butterflies as well as macro-moths. Many more records are needed to gain a fuller picture of the macro-moths in our area as can be seen from the couple of distribution maps shown below. Consequently, can I please ask ALL those who have moth-trapped/recorded in the past, all those who are trapping and recording now, and even those people who only come across the occasional moth in their porches or kitchens, PLEASE SEND ME YOUR RECORDS !! I need all moth records past, present and future. If you have notebooks which you are reluctant to part with I will gratefully accept photocopies; I will even take your notebooks and photocopy them myself and let you have them back by return. Single records are very welcome; by letter, and/or e-mail. I will take telephone records but I much prefer to have them backed up on paper as I can then store the paper records for future reference should any disputes or problems arise.

What data do I need: the 'normal' data minimum for all biological records is: - the name and contact details of the observer/recorder; - the name of the person who identified the moth if different form the recorder; - the name of the moth; - the place it was seen (with a 6-figure O.S. Grid reference if possible - if not give me a ring and we will try and work out a grid reference with you); - the date the observation/record was made (if via a moth-trap the date is the day the moth trap was put out NOT the day it was collected in (e.g. if the trap was put out at 6:00pm on the evening of Saturday 6th December and brought in at 07:00am on Sunday morning, the date for the record would be the 6th December for whatever year it was). Extra information, such as numbers, sexes, etc. etc. are always useful and much appreciated if they can be provided but are not absolutely necessary.

One thing to avoid, if you can, is the stringing together of records. Each observation/capture of a species should ideally be separate; please try to avoid providing records in the format: Barred Yellow caught 12 times from 15 August 1999 to 23 September 1999. Although this is useful, and will be accepted, it provides far less information than separating the records:

  • Barred Yellow
    • 4 15/8/99
    • 3 18/8/99
    • 1 05/09/99
    • etc.

I look forward greatly to receiving your records to begin to fill out the distribution maps and also to enable an annual report about the moths, rather than merely one where I ask for information, to be produced each year. Please help if you can. All moth records (and indeed any other records of plants, insects, birds and vertebrates are gratefully received), to:

Distribution Maps:

The maps below show the current distributions of Elephant Hawkmoth (Deilephila elpenor), Silver-ground Carpet (Xanthorhoe montanata), Large Yellow-Underwing (Noctua pronuba) and the Heart and Dart (Agrotis exclamationis) as taken from the data held on the database at January 2000. Please note that there are many thousnads of historic records from Ian' Rutherford's tenur with the Recording Scheme still awaiting entry to the database and these will fill out the distribution picture immensely but will take two to three years of steady effort to get onto the computer. These are very common moths and were chosen to show the existing gaps in the coverage of the County. The map shows the outline of the Vice-County of Cheshire (VC-58) though some of the dots are just over the River Mersey (on the north side) and come from the Modern Cheshire County which includes Hale, Widnes, and north Warrington. As can be seen, there is still plenty of scope for your additional records to make an impact on our knowledge of even the commonest species of macro-moth in our area.

144 records of Elephant Hawkmoth on the database indicating a flight period of mid-May to mid-August.
470 records of Silver-ground Carpet on the database indicating a flight period of early May to mid-August.
668 records of Heart and Dart on the database indicating a flight period of late May to mid-October.
507 records of Large Yellow-Underwing on the database indicating a flight period of mid-May to early September.


Steve. J. McWilliam - December 1999












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